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Quest for perfect chutney

Grace used a sliver of hard Brie cheese and topped it with a bit of homemade chutney and walnuts.
Grace used a sliver of hard Brie cheese and topped it with a bit of homemade chutney and walnuts.

Chutney is my new best friend. I tried it and I love it. When I looked for chutney in the stores, all I could find was a jar of ready-made mango chutney, but that was not very exciting.

For some reason, what I had in mind was cranberry chutney – homemade.

I found a recipe for apple chutney, which had some cranberries in it. That sounded like what I was looking for, but still it was not quite right. I wanted it to be more cranberry than apple. I decided to try to make my own. I would know when it was right.                                

My friend, Diane, came to my kitchen and we kept trying different formulas, a little at a time, as we set out on our quest to find the perfect cranberry chutney. Quests are always more fun with another person.

I found what I was looking for – at least pretty close. We started with the apple-cranberry recipe and kept adding to the pot until we reached the exact blend we wanted. 

There is no comparison between homemade chutney and the variety on the store shelves. 

Cranberry chutney

We started with two apples – a crisp bright-green Granny Smith and a sweet Red Delicious apple, both diced.

2 cups dried cranberries

1 cup of fresh or frozen cranberries

½ cup red wine vinegar 

½ cup diced onion

½ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Juice and zest of half an orange

Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a heavy Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. If you need more liquid, use a little cranberry juice.

Cranberry chutney

2 apples, peeled and chopped

2 packages of dried cranberries

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

½ cup chopped onion

¼ cup cider vinegar

1/3 to ½ cup of brown sugar

1 tablespoon 

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

Small pinch of ground clove

Put all ingredients into a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for a few minutes more, to reduce any remaining liquid.

Refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

Cranberry and port wine chutney

Yield: Makes about 2 cups.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Yield: 20 servings

2 packages (12 ounces each) fresh or frozen cranberries

1 package Craisins

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup cranberry juice

1 medium tart apple, peeled and chopped

3⁄4 cup golden raisins

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm or cover and refrigerate until chilled. Refrigerate leftovers.

Make ahead: Chutney can be made a week in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Some cooks say the life of chutney is about 2 weeks. Others said they just keep it in the refrigerator until it is used up.

Versatile, spreadable cheese

It started with chutney, then someone gave me some cheese, so we tried a couple of things and I learned something new there. 

I always thought the older the cheese, the better. Something about aging, so I was not in a hurry to use the cheese. I had a nice round of brie, another wedge of brie, and a small carton of all-natural Alouette, a brand of soft French-style cheeses mixed with berries and cream, which was delicious as is.

This soft spreadable cheese is a replacement for cream cheese, to spread on toast or waffles.

We spread it on various types of crackers and use it as a dip for strawberries. It is so pretty all by itself.

Sweet brie wheel

1 (8-ounce) wheel brie cheese

 ½ cup finely shredded cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons port wine

4 ounces chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons honey

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Cut brie wheel in half horizontally. Mix cheddar cheese and port wine and spread over bottom half of brie. Cover with top half of brie; place on baking sheet. Mix walnuts and honey; spread over brie. Bake about 5 minutes or until brie is warm and soft to the touch. Serve with crackers, plain cookies or fruit.

NOTE: You can make this the same as the sweet brie wheel (above) by using ½ cup of cold pack cheddar with port wine if you like. 

This needs to be served warm. Place it on a heated tray if you have one.

Brie cheese appetizer

1 (8-ounce) wheel brie cheese

3 tablespoons apricot, strawberry, or any flavor, preserves

½ (17.5-ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg white

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Slice one wheel of brie cheese in half, horizontally, so you have 2 circles of cheese. Spread preserves on the cut side half of one circle of brie. Make sandwich out of the two halves of brie, so that the preserves are in the middle. Wrap the “sandwich” with one sheet of puffed pastry and flip the whole thing onto the prepared cookie sheet so the seam is on the bottom. Brush the puffed pastry with egg white.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown. Serve immediately. 

Big ‘wheel-o-brie’

Makes 1 ½ cups on baking sheet

This takes 2 minutes to prepare, and 2 minutes to disappear.

Buy the big “wheel-o-brie” at Sam’s Club or your local market. 

Cut off top rind of brie

Mix a cup of brown sugar and a cup of chopped walnuts.

Place nuts/brown sugar over top of brie wheel.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

Serve with crackers, cookies, or fruit.

NOTE: You can also make a small “wheel” by just cutting down the proportions.

Tip of the week

Dampen a paper towel or a terry cloth and push downward on a cob of corn. Every strand of silk should come off.

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